Starting Seeds in Salad Containers

Over the years I have written about many ways to start seeds and they all have one thing in common, a simulated greenhouse.

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Now, every year I think I will have a real greenhouse.  Surely by the time I need to start seeds I will have one built or put together or otherwise exist, but then the same issue comes up every season (no funds), and so I am once again left with my own creativity.  This year I saved salad containers all year.  The kind with the lids.  You see, the key to seed starting is lots of sun and continuous moisture in a warm space.  It is so dry and cold here that I would be watering all the time and probably cause the seeds to mold.  No, I need a mother-nature-way of watering, softly and simply, with evaporation and condensation.

Many seeds should be direct planted.  Even though I added six weeks to my growing season by moving to Pueblo, I still need more time for peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant.  I found last year that when I direct planted them, they almost made it before frost.  This year I am holding back half of the seeds to direct plant and half I will transplant.  Transplanting is not always successful so we figure that one of the ways will succeed!  (And so goes the life of a farmer.)

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Fill your salad container 2/3 of the way full with organic, potting soil.  You want room for the plants to grow.  Water the soil so that it is evenly damp.  We don’t want any marshes settled at the bottom, but you might be surprised how much water the potting soil can hold.

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When it is evenly damp, sprinkle the seeds over the soil somewhat spread apart.  Barely sprinkle on more soil to cover and use a spray bottle of water to really dampen.  Until they are established, a water bottle prevents water pressure from dislodging the seed or drowning the poor fellas.

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Close lid tightly and mark with a sharpie.  Because you will forget the varietal and date you planted!  Just trust me on this.

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Let’s see, now to find a place with at least six hours of sun where the cats won’t step on or eat said seedlings.  (A more difficult dilemma than one might think.)  The guest room has a nice sunny spot on the bed from the south facing window a good part of the day and the door closes.

Now over the next week or two, keep an eye on your seeds.  There should be consistent “rainfall” in the box.  If it slows (every other day or so) spray thoroughly with water and reclose.  When plants are 1 inch tall, open the top and water as needed making sure not to let them dry out nor drown.  (You can still use the spray bottle.)  Once they get to be about two or three inches, transplant into another container separately.  (A blog post on that will be in a few weeks.)

I don’t know about you but I am darn near stir crazy not being able to be outside doing something.  At least starting seeds makes me feel like spring has begun.

The End of Summer

The end of summer.

‘Twas yesterday eve that I felt the shift.  The night temperatures would fall much too cold for summer crops.  I gathered my long shawl- orange and reds to match the changing leaves- across my hair and over my shoulders to keep the encroaching dusk chill away and gathered my baskets.

Out into the gardens with falling light I felt for vegetables and fruits in the dirt, on vines, hidden in lush leaves, swiftly clipping and twisting them into my hands.  Watermelons, butternut squash, yellow squash, poblanos, chilies, jalapenos, green peppers, and dozens upon dozens of green tomatoes came tumbling in.

Into the warm house where the fire was lit and the candles dazzled the rainy night.  For rain it poured and torrents of it came, while lightening bid farewell to the summer night games.  An autumn chill has descended here and the nights will stay cool as the sun tends to fall asleep early and the gardening days of fall are almost done.

The oil lamps lit, and candles brighten pages of good books.  And the darkness descends us into a warming rest.  I took a sip of tea and watched him put another log on the fire.

Learning the Greenhouse (an adult playhouse)

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My friends’ greenhouse stands erect and proud in their yard.  I am impressed that it hasn’t blown away, been destroyed by hail, or any other natural greenhouse killers on the Plains.  It is set to the east of a steep hill which much keep it somewhat protected.  It is quite well made and cost them a few thousand dollars three years ago.

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Right now the upper section of the Dutch door stays open and a few windows are cranked out.  I have never had a greenhouse before that was is in working order to do its job well.  This greenhouse is small but effective.  It would probably extend the season a month or two either calendar direction.  It would be great for starting seeds and would keep plants growing into late autumn.

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The tomatoes are in heaven, growing and stretching as if they were in the tropics.  In the greenhouse they want to grow, too much nitrogen will make them humongous but won’t allow any fruit.  Using an organic fruiting fertilizer with similar ratios of potash to nitrogen will help bring on baskets of tomatoes.

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A shelf across the south side offers more space.  I brought over my five gallon buckets of kale, chard, spinach, and lettuce, and a few herbs.  They absolutely love the greenhouse.  There are a few pesky grasshoppers but not as many as there would be in an open garden.

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I have been noting the differences in the areas of the greenhouse.  The lettuce does best below the shelf on the south side.  It gets plenty of light but doesn’t burn up.  This would be a good place for cold crops like greens, broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbage when extending the season.  I only have to water those plants every four to five days.  The plants on the top shelf, herbs, especially huge basil plants and comfrey, sun bathe and grow lavishly.  I water them along with the tomatoes every other day.

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When we get our own place we will have to get a greenhouse like this one.  It’s been fun taking care of and using my friends’ greenhouse and learning the nuances of it.  I suppose you can probably guess that the homesteading bug bit me again, or perhaps it never left!  My fingernails have become far too clean.

Harvest

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The sun came out and bounced off the crystal droplets that held fast to the plants in a great display of shimmer.  The water evaporated and the plants took a great breath of the fresh autumn air.  We headed out in sweaters with baskets to see what Mother Nature had left us.  Like Easter morning, our eyes full of wonder, searching for treasures within the rows.

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Doug deftly found the beans that we are drying for winter stews and chilies.  He filled quite a bag full.  I found rich purple and red tomatoes, bright spicy chilies, and sweet, small peppers.  Ear, after ear, after ear of corn.  The other side of the gardens yielded two gallons of Swiss chard, kale, and collard greens.  A gallon of fresh lettuce.  A bag of soybeans to eat in front of a football game boiled just right with a little sea salt and chipotle.  The last onion.  A handful of cherry tomatoes.  Spicy radishes making their second debut this year brought a spring to my step with each peppery bite.  Piles of earthy potatoes just waiting to join onions and garlic in the cast iron skillet.  And pumpkins.  I do love pumpkins.

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Through worry and work, through screwy weather and days of bliss watching the plants grow, this is truly the reward.  Seeing the rich palette of colors that start to glow and brighten the world in a majestic show.

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Happy Harvesting!